Free agency was fun this year. GM Phil Emery was spending like a recent lotto winner in Vegas as soon as the market opened for business. He made some great picks, too. The Bears got much better on the defensive line and convinced former rival Jared Allen to don the orange and blue.
Because of the Allen signing, along with the addition of Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, I believe the Bears can move their focus away from the defensive line in the first round. There are still some big holes to fill at cornerback and safety. Re-signing Charles Tillman was a good move, but he’s aging and he only played eight games last year. If he can’t go a full season, the Bears would be in trouble.
Safety is not locked up either, even with the additions of Ryan Mundy and M.D. Jennings. Chris Conte’s surgery should also be a concern for Chicago, along with his less-than-stellar play last season.
I believe the Bears should make a big move in the secondary first and worry about the line in rounds two or three.
10: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Besides Lance Briggs, the Bears aren’t set at either LB position for sure. Mosley is one of the best linebackers in the draft after Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who won’t be available. Mosley is versatile enough to lineup inside our out, a trait Emery gravitates towards. He also has a high football IQ and played against the best in college, so the transition to the NFL won’t be as big for him.
9: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
He’s got the size at 6-2, 330 pounds. He’s got power. And most of all, he’s athletic. Emery loves his athletes, and Nix provides that at his position. He has the ability to chase down players in either direction. He’s also a player who gives great effort each play and has a high motor. He needs to improve a bit when he gets double teamed, but with the additions Chicago has made, he should be in a position to succeed.
8: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Fuller may not be the flashiest guy, but he’s technically sound, effective against the pass and run game. He has a good IQ and is able to read routes which allows him to act quickly. He has good ball awareness and skills, a trait he’ll need against big guys like Calvin Johnson. He’s also a good blitzer.
7: Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois
He showed good speed at his pro day, running a 4.47 40-yard dash time. He’s a fluid athlete which Emery will attract Emery’s attention. He played at a smaller school, so his ability to transition to the league has some dropping him a bit. Because of his speed and athletic abilities, he’s also able to cover slot receivers well, another thing Emery will take note of.
6: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Verrett is a smaller guy, but what he lacks in that area, he makes up for with his speed and athleticism. He’s able to turn his hips and go, and he has great footwork. He has good ballskills and the ability to read and react quickly to undercut a route or come off his man and make a play.
5: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Pryor is a very physical player, who loves to hit and tackle. He’s able to take on blockers and get to a ballcarrier. In the pass game, he has great vision, with the ability to make punishing hits and separate the man from the ball. He also has good ballskills. These traits will make him stout against the run and provide the ability to create turnovers, something the Bears are usually good at but need to improve upon from last year.
4: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
Yes, Donald is an elite talent, and no, he didn’t actually say he wanted a trade if drafted by the Bears. However, with the moves the Bears have made so far, he’s not needed as much as a premiere player in the secondary. His ability to get after the quarterback up the middle is fantastic. He comes off the snap very quickly. His frame will allow him to gain leverage and drive players back to create an effective bull-rush. His biggest upside is his athleticism, which can’t be discounted when Phil Emery is evaluating your talent level.
3: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Dennard is a lock-down corner who can shut down one side of the field. This can’t be overlooked in the NFC North with guys like Calvin Johnson roaming around. He is very technically sound and polished. He is a physical player and a reliable open-field tackler. He has the frame to make plays on the ball knock it away. His issue is speed, which could be a reason for pause for GM Phil Emery.
2: Hasean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Haha not only has the best nickname, he also possesses the size, speed and athleticism to make an immediate difference. He can cover guys deep and in nickel packages. Dix can close quickly to provide great run support. He has great ballskills, is a physical defender and looks to make a big hit. He’s a great option to provide support over the top to allow Tillman and Jennings to try and create more turnovers this year.
1: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
There’s a slim chance Gilbert will be on the board at 14, but bigger names have fallen farther before. At season’s end, I wouldn’t have put Gilbert atop the Bears’ wish list, but after free agency his stock has risen. He’s got the size at six feet, 200 pounds. He’s got the speed, running a 4.37 at the combine. He’s the best athlete at his position, which makes him the best prize in Emery’s eyes. He had seven picks last year and returned six kickoffs for touchdowns in college. With Tillman on a one-year deal, the Bears would be fools not to pick up Gilbert if he’s available.